Sutton's Free Throws Hold Off Florida Rally
Jan. 8, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - South Carolina fought off a second-half rally from Florida to collect a 49-44 win in SEC women's basketball action Sunday afternoon at Stephen O'Connell Center. The Gamecocks (14-2, 3-0 SEC) got huge offensive rebounds from Sancheon White and Charenee Stephens late in the game to hold off the Gators' final surge. Markeshia Grant and La'Keisha Sutton led the offense with 11 points each, with Sutton's final two coming on a pair of free throws with five seconds left to seal the victory.
The Gamecocks got off to a slow start offensively, but after the first media timeout, the ever-present defense began generating easy buckets that got the shooters back on track. South Carolina took a 13-12 lead with 9:38 to play in the first period and turned it into a 31-15 lead at the break thanks largely to Markeshia Grant and Aleighsa Welch.
Grant netted five unanswered points on a baseline drive and a 3-pointer from the right corner, which was generated by good ball movement around the perimeter. Deana Allen drove for a Florida bucket, but Tina Roy answered with a driving layup and a 3-pointer from the right corner after an offensive rebound. After a Gator turnover, Sutton found Charenee Stephens unguarded on the block for a bucket, and Roy followed that with a great look inside to an unattended Welch on the left block for a 29-14 Gamecock advantage with 2:21 left in the half. Both teams misfired on their next possessions, but Welch cleaned up on the Gamecocks' next trip down the floor when Ashley Bruner drew the defense and found her unattended in the paint. Florida got a free throw just before halftime to make it a 31-15 South Carolina edge at the break.
The Gators came out hot in the second half, putting together an 11-2 run to open the period. Jennifer George did a majority of the damage, taking advantage of an aggressive Gamecock defense to find an open lane to the basket. With Florida within seven at 26-33 just five minutes into the half, Sutton scored the game's next three points on a free throw and a transition layup to stretch it back to a 10-point advantage.
The teams traded baskets to a 42-27 Gamecock lead with 9:01 left to play. But, Florida was not done. The Gators closed within seven points on a 13-5 run, giving the Gamecocks some of their own medicine with relentless attacks on the basket, capped by a 3-pointer from Lily Svete with 4:55 left to play.
Both teams were frantic on both sides of the ball, which resulted in a scoring drought of 4:33 for both. George finally broke the stalemate with a driving layup to bring Florida within three at 45-42 with 22 seconds left. The Gators were fouling, forcing the Gamecocks to win the game on the free throw line. While that proved difficult, offensive rebounding saved the day. When Welch missed the front end of a 1-and-1, White soared between Florida defenders for a rebound. Another missed free throw left the door open for Florida, but this time Stephens boxed out for the board and laid it back in for a 47-42 Gamecock edge with 13 seconds on the clock. The Gamecock defense pulled back slightly, allowing Jaterra Bonds to go in for a bucket, cutting the lead back to three points. Another foul sent Sutton to the line, where the senior calmly drained both to make it a two-possession game with five seconds to go.
Welch joined Grant and Sutton in double figures with 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting. White pulled in a team-high seven rebounds in the game, and Sutton handed out four assists. South Carolina shot 46.7 percent from the first half and forced Florida into 20 turnovers. The Gamecocks out-rebounded the Gators 39-37 despite two Florida players in double figures.
The Gamecocks continue their road swing at LSU, taking on the Tigers on Thu., Jan. 12, at 8 p.m. (ET). South Carolina is back at Colonial Life Arena on Sun., Jan. 15, against No. 11/9 Kentucky at 3 p.m.